I am currently in a recovery week. For me that means usually about half my normal planned training volume.
Notice I said planned.
Last week I had a tough time getting my workouts done. Ryan was sick for a couple of days, I had two concerts in one week (all different music) which meant a lot of rehearsal and practice time, not to mention all of my regular work and everyday family stuff going on. Sometimes you just can't hit everything. So my training hours last week were closer to a recovery week. I spent a lot of last week trying to figure out how to fit everything in until I finally was able to recognize it just wasn't going to happen.
And then, BAM a recovery week in my calendar.
Before I was a coach I might have said to myself, "Well, last week was really like a recovery week, so I'll just skip this recovery week and go straight into regular training again." Now I know that that would have been a poor choice. I have athletes that get totally freaked out about recovery weeks (you know who you are!!). I totally get this. For many of us training is a way to take off steam, to focus, to let our minds wander and muse, to spend time alone or with friends, to relieve the stress of a busy life. Often training is much more to us than training, so when we take that away, so to speak, for a week, we start to freak out.
Even though last week my training load was smaller than expected, my overall stress load was high. Stress is stress and I was suffering from a lot of it last week that kept me from training in one way or another. The interesting thing about our bodies is that regardless of the kind of stress - emotional, training (yes, training is physical stress!), work, family, etc. - our bodies react to all of it in the same way, by producing cortisol. Too much cortisol in our bodies is not a good thing and for athletes can lead to overtraining syndrome. Here is an article with a good explanation of this.
So what's my point? Even though my training volume last week was lower than expected, my overall stress was high, so I still NEED a recovery week this week. Recovery is the time that my body soaks in all the work I've been doing. Someone explained it to me once that training is like mixing a cake. You put all the ingredients in and you stir it around until it's all mixed up. However, you don't get cake until you put it in the oven and let it be still and bake! If you rush the baking part, you definitely don't get great cake. Recovery is JUST AS IMPORTANT as the training! They go hand in hand, and if you neglect recovery by going out and doing more than you should during those weeks because you feel great or because you have a group run you don't want to miss or because you just need to get out and run, you are doing yourself a disservice!!
So, enjoy your recovery weeks! Love the fact that you don't have to take 2 or 3 showers each day! Enjoy that you don't have to pack a run bag AND a swim bag. Revel in less sweaty laundry and more days to sleep in even if it's only by 30 minutes! Eat up those easy rides and flops in the pool. You don't get them very often, right? You are not being lazy. You are not limiting your performance. You are getting better and faster on those days! REST and RECOVER and ENJOY!!